The Topological Media Lab (TML) was established in 2001 as a trans-disciplinary atelier-laboratory for collaborative research creation. In 2005, TML moved to Concordia University and the Milieux research network in Montréal, Canada. Its projects serve as case studies in the construction of fresh modes of cultural knowledge and the critical studies of media arts and techno-science, bringing together practices of speculative inquiry, scientific investigation and artistic research-creation practices. The TML’s technical research areas include: realtime video, sound synthesis, embedded sensors, gesture tracking, physical computing, media choreography, and active textiles. Its application areas lie in movement arts, speculative architecture, and experimental philosophy. The broad base of expertise as expressed by the background experience of our team is an indication of how our collaboration supports the many levels of investigation articulated in our projects. Because our research involves the design and development of responsive media as well as the application of these interactive instruments within the context of public outcomes, we have adopted a peer-to-peer system that supports the transfer of techniques, and methods related to both theory and practice. While we still employ processes, commonly used in the day-to-day supervision of students, we also engage with modes of practice-based skill transfer as defined by apprenticeship or mentorship. Based on years of collaborative experience in the digital construction of responsive environments and building upon our reputation for generating new interactive instruments, we are confident that our curated team will be able to innovate for years to come.
VISUAL DOCUMENTATION The video and photo documentation on the website is separated into four parts.
included in exhibition - Art Practice - Interactive Installations | Completed - works on tour internationally - Art Practice - Interactive Installations |Prototype - Projects in Process
not included in exhibition - Art Practice - Interactive Installations / Performance | Not included in exhibition - Chaosmosis mAchInes - Research|Knowledge Transfer | application of research in medicine and architecture - Not included in exhibition - Chaosmosis mAchInes
Chaosmosis mAchInes | included in exhibition
Art Practice - Interactive Installations | completed - works on tour internationally
TangibleFlux - ARS Electronica, Linz 2018 Navid Navab
In search for the hidden mysteries of matter from the borders of table-top astrophysics and natural fiction, three microcosms orchestrate states of sensory access to the phenomenological emergence of order out of chaos. tangibleFlux φ plenumorphic ∴chaosmosis is an installation that invites participants to intimately encounter the ontogenesis of vital patterns through the spontaneous formation of temporal textures that emerge from material-energy fields. Physically investigated through collaboration with forces of complex harmonic motion, patterns-of-interaction between magnetism, gravity, and light spiral out of theories of complexity and into an improvisatory dance of hallucinatory forms. Eventually, the kinetic event unveils messy realness chaosing into balance: things doing… stuff seeking a minimum-energy-state under magnetic flux. Sensually binding, spatially confusing, and temporally unsettling, tangibleFlux pulls everything into immediate vibrational relation with its vertiginous ritual.
Spiel - ARS Electronica, Linz 2018 Peter van Haaften | Michael Montanaro
While absorbed in conversation you notice a stranger approaching. With a curious instrument a_xed to their face the visitor leans in, and listens. The mouth opens, patterns of rhythm and sound emanate from within: voices recognizable as your own. Spun out of focus, words reveal their ingrained subtleties as the collector of conversation captures the sentence but not the sentiment. Vocal exchanges are recalled and reflected. Voices are transformed by physical formant inflections, while acoustic hallucinations seem to reference what might have been said. An etude on hearing lips and seeing voices, the performer's mechanically augmented vocal tract reshapes and alters conversational spectra into new modes of mis-communication. Spiel physically unravels the tenuous synesthetic relationship between what is seen, heard and understood.
The Sound That Severs Now from Now Garnet Willis
The Sound That Severs Now from Nowemploys its large pendulum swinging in time as a visual/sculptural means of mechanically diffusing a beam of sound around the exhibition space. This specialized beam of sound exhibits an extremely narrow diffraction angle and as such can be reflected with a small planar surface to allow one to experience a new way of hearing which is more akin to a passing object making the sound than it is to a sound radiating from a central source.
Stemming from ideas elucidated in Bruno Latour’s Facing Gaia: Six Lectures on the Political Theology of Nature (2013,)this work proposes a critique aimed at global political inaction regarding climate change. This sculptural and sound-based work is premised upon friction created between a ground consisting of the slow ticking of time, and a beam of sound sonically punctuating the space to create an aural-spatial map that confirms, in a familiar, or perhaps even comforting and embodying way, the viewer’s aural perceptual location within space. The presence of the piece is intended to imbue the exhibition space, both sonically and visually, with cultural cues that come hand in hand with motion and sound of the pendulum mechanism. This work plays with the ideas implicit in the term keeping time: that these mechanisms somehow contain time within their motion – materializing it and in so doing, making it compatible with the very rational models which led to their development, all the while problematizing the very value systems upon which they were premised. Drawing on the sound of the ticking pendulum – this historical anthem of rational positivism –meting out time as regular commodified packets, provides the means by which this pendulum can supply both a central visual point of focus and apt point of cultural reference, setting the stage for a symbolic juxtaposition, against which the second part of the work is balanced. This second part - in the form of a quietly destabilizing sonic figure - will propose a subversion that calls into question the objective historical pride and increasingly apparent eco-folly represented by such devices as they slice, measure and render the world, serving it up to the utility-maximizing calculus of human appetite.…
Liquid Light(2018) - Ambient Eco-Feedback Light Fixture Nima Navab
Liquid Light is a light fixture embedded into the kitchen cabinets of a residential building. Through manipulation of liquid textures, the light communicates overall trends in consumption of water over time. Cumulative flow patterns for the whole house are gathered in a local database and compared to the weekly usage recommended. The analysis is translated into droplets of water inside the lamp, ambiently giving residents a sense of adequate to excessive flow of water. As consumption rises the animation of drops becomes more frequent. The fixture is a translucent scaled model of the projection counter space below it. Reverberations of liquid within the acrylic fixture are bounded to the physical geometries of space and as a result, create a sense of ever-shifting fluidity. Performing dynamically with these caustics refractions allows residents to reflect on flow patterns while engaged with textures of light at play. Consequently, the conditioned lighting strategy animates to gradually influence consumption behaviour through raising spatial awareness of flow cycles ordinarily imperceptible.
Until I am Found Chloë Cheul
This unique viewfinder made of clear globes allows one to pan the view of the surroundings through transforming perspectives. By moving the smallest globular lens nearer to and further away from the largest frontal globe, the reflected cityscape would be altered from an upright but blurry image to an inverted yet clear view. Pacing between clarity and haze, the familiar and the strange, the lines between reality and illusion are blurred, and the physical and virtual world intertwine. This installation is a versatile metaphor for our constant search for direction and belonging, until an external voice resonates with us.
Art Practice - Interactive Installations |Prototype - Projects in Process
On Air (2019) Michael Montanaro | Peter van Haaften
Parle is an alchemical apparatus that turns speech into air. Like the breath behind the voice, phrases are transformed into a concoction of words and wind, accumulating deep inside an inflatable chamber. Metal trumpets form the final stage of translation. From here vocal patterns are released back into the atmosphere.
Cloud Chamber (2018) | Caustic Scenography, Responsive Cloud Formation -Atmospheres Workshop, Synthesis Centre, AME, Tempi, Arizona, Topological Media Lab, Concordia University Nima Navab Exploring ephemeral fields of light, water, air, sound and temperature as a trigger of pre-reflective, embodied ways of relating to environments by shifting boundaries between human agents and their environment. The installation creates mist and clouds of different textures and simultaneously intensifies and augments the movement and transformations of matter and their response to the exterior conditions A bed of ultrasonic atomizers are submersed in a pool of water. Variable ultrasonic power is converted to high frequencies driving piezoelectric transducers. Through distributed continuous modulation of frequencies, atomizers vibrate particles at rapid pace, in effect, allowing for the creation of low to high density cloud structures, while spreading water droplets around its periphery. Multi-directional embedded light design, projects these wave patterns through reflection and refraction; creating a caustic scenography. The material computation makes physically and metaphorically felt the co-dependencies of immediate to remote actors in play within its spatial setting. In effect, performative qualities of transformative states of matter are amplified through caustic experimentations.
Passing Light (2018) Michael Montanaro | Naoto Heida
In a darkened room sits a precariously balanced metal plate. Alchemically transformed, light in liquid form rests on its surface. Entering the space, you are shadowed by luminescence, equilibrium is disturbed. Light cascades down the tilted steel sheet creating a waterfall of illuminated atoms that find their way onto the floor and across the space. In this installation the line that separates the physical properties of water and light are blurred in an ever changing cycle of animated play.
Phaze |P19 (2019) Joseph Thibodeau Hearing protectors, microphones, speakers, electronics
Sense-altering technology changes our ability to perceive and understand ourselves in the world. New senses engender new sensory practices, similar to how children develop and adapt to their sensory faculties as they grow. Newborn brains adapt to the sensory information they encounter, signals sent by organs that are themselves alive. In 19D, a machine life-form inhabits a parasitic headset that takes over our sense of hearing. Like a newborn, we must develop and adapt to this life-form to make sense of the acoustic world anew.
Autonomous robots can provoke and reflect human notions of the self. Ranging in shape and sophistication, these artificial creatures have no "function". They spend their time entangled in a mesh of interactions with each other and the environment, much as we do. These artificial selves serve as tangible incarnations of philosophical ideas. Encountering non-biological lifelike entities, how do we attempt to understand their actions and reactions? How do we apply our concepts and assumptions of selfhood, agency and motivation to these objects, and what does it reveal about our ways of thinking?
Phase Serious Computer Group Nina Bouchard and Evan Montpellier
Phase is a responsive video installation. The work is a study of water, combining video footage and synthesized graphics to generate evolving visual patterns. By means of interactive technology, these patterns gradually adapt to movement in the work’s environment, creating a contemplative relationship between Phase and its viewers. When it is at rest, water is neutral and still, but upon any stimulus it immediately assumes intricate, changing forms. As soon as wind touches its surface, textures appear; currents give rise to eddies and flows; casting a stone produces a multitude of waves. Constantly transforming, it becomes abstract and hypnotic. All of this richness emerges from fundamental physical principles of wave cancellation and reinforcement. Water exemplifies the way that simple systems can give rise to complexity. Phase generates a stream of visual patterns so detailed that it exceeds the viewer’s ability to grasp it completely. Each viewer plots a unique course through the imagery depending on the scope and focus of their gaze. In this way, Phase emulates the experience of finding images in natural structures, such as by seeing figures in clouds or hearing melodies and rhythms in environmental sounds.
Art Practice - Interactive Installations / Performance| Not included in Chaosmosis mAchInes
Aquaphoneia - Paris Biennale - Némo December 2017 - ARS Electronica, Linz 2016 Navid Navab | Michael Montanaro
Aquaphoneia is an alchemical installation centred around the poiesis of time and transmutation of voice into matter.A large horn floating mid space echoes the ghosts of Edison, Bell, and Berliner’s machines. But unlike early recording, herding sound energy to etch pressure patterns in solid matter, this odd assemblage transmutes voice into water and water into air. Disembodied voices abandon their sources to cross the event horizon of the horn. Estranged, the schizo-phone falls into the narrow depths of the bell, squeezed into spatiotemporal infinity, calcinated, liquified and released: The aqueous voice then flows into three alchemical chambers where inner time is surrendered to the tempi of matter: unbound, yet lucid and sound.In one corner, voices bubbling inside a sphere of fire are brought to entropy and transmuted into a timeless concentration of spectral mist and phonetic vapour. An ouroboros chamber twists fermented vowels into distilled consonants to release a thin blade of prosody. This viscous alchemical matter lowers itself to the terra beneath where matter dances to its own affective tonality. Another module separates speech into vital elements a drop at a time: words into phonemes, into phono particles, and the invisible quanta of silence.
Einstein's Dream sought to build time conditioning installations & techniques capable of creating palpable alternatives to the everyday experience of time. Our intention was to construct physical zones in which objects and fields of lighting, sound, and video would change in concert with the inhabitants’ movement to create a new architecture of kinetic material and digital media in which time becomes an elasticmedium of expression and invention.
Practices of Everyday Life |Cooking -Premiere Société de Musique Contemporain du Montreal |Montreal New Music International Festival - February 2015,ARS Electronica, Linz 2018 Navid Navab | Jerome DeLapierre | Michael Montanaro | Tony Chong
A performance choreographed around a chef and sonified objects: fruit, vegetables, meat, knives, pots and pans, cutting board and table. Cooking*, the most ancient art of transmutation, has become over a quarter of a million years an unremarkable, domestic practice. But in this everyday practice, things perish, transform, nourish other things. Enchanting the fibers, meats, wood and metal with sound and painterly light, we stage a performance made from the moves (gestures) of cooking, scripted from the recipes of cuisine both high and humble. Panning features virtuosic chefs who are also movement artists, such as Tony Chong. "Cooking"is the first part in a series of performances exploring how everyday gestures/events could become charged with symbolic intensity. We use responsive media to poetically charge everyday actions and objects in ways that combine sound and visual composition with the participant's contingent nuance. As the participants grow accustomed to the instrument’s responsive quality, everyday gestures may become aesthetically invested or charged with emotion or social meaning. Participant’s gestures not only lead to unexpected musicality but to narratives about shaping relationships with the world. "Practices of everyday life" synthesizes state of art techniques in continuous gesture tracking and sonification in a paradigm of calligraphic gestural media developed by Navid Navab at the Topological Media Lab. Technical methods include corpus-based concatenative synthesis, haptic-acoustic transcoding, gesturally driven granular processing, physical models, real-time machine-learning, and gesture following
Frankenstein’s Ghosts is a collaborative creation-research project. The aim of the project is to generate a hybrid performance work based on the substantive issues raised in Mary Shelley’s novel In June 2007, several of the project collaborators received SSHRC funding to bring together an interdisciplinary team of academics and artists to share in a deconstruction, analysis and exploration of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This came from a desire among academic scholars to explore artistic transformations of their discourse as a way of pushing their thinking even deeper into the subject matter - working with artists who will transform their research into another “language.” For the artists, the impulse came from a desire for deep understanding of the many substantive themes emerging from the novel before embarking on artistic creation.
Prototype - Project in Process
ORGAN·ISM (2019) Nima Navab | Navid Navab |Michael Montanaro | Thierry Dumont | Joseph Browne
A Casavant organ built in 1910 is brought back to life. Using Data produced from the intensity and movement of a candle….it sings. The final installation will use weather data as a source for activating the organ. A second version is also being constructed as a compositional tool for performance.
Coil Cascade (2019) Peter van Haaften Coil Cascade is a performance for springs.
Mirroring the first electronic sound effect, Hammond’s antiquated electric reverb, Coil Cascade exploits the potential of common vibrating matter as hidden musical process. Chance procedures are derived from the stochastic nature of matter itself, while sound is shaped as it undulates to harmonic spring motion. An array of giant steel extension springs are strung in continuously morphing arrangements. Across three movements, springs are plucked, scraped, struck and bowed. At moments springs swing alone in space, activated by their own tacit harmonicity and pulsating magnetic coils.
Research|Knowledge Transfer | application of our research within the fields of architecture and medicine
Sonifey| Collaboration - Technical University Munich - John Hopkins Navid Navab
Sonic interaction as a technique for conveying information has advantages over conventional visual augmented reality methods specially when augmenting the visual field with extra information brings distraction. Sonification of knowledge extracted by applying computational methods to sensory data is a well-established concept. However, some aspects of sonic interaction design such as aesthetics, the cognitive effort required for perceiving information, and avoiding alarm fatigue are not well studied in literature. In this work, we present a sonification scheme based on employment of physical modeling sound synthesis which targets focus demanding tasks requiring extreme precision. Proposed mapping techniques are designed to require minimum training for users to adapt to and minimum mental effort to interpret the conveyed information. Two experiments are conducted to assess the feasibility of the proposed method and compare it against visual augmented reality in high precision tasks. The observed quantitative results suggest that utilizing sound patches generated by physical modeling achieve the desired goals of minimizing the cognitive load while improving the user experience and general task outcome.
SOLAR DECATHLON - funded and sponsored by: http://teammtl.ca/sponsorship.html A collaborative project that explores the concept of “Deep-Performance”. which implies a socially, culturally,and technologically advanced architecture that embodies qualitative and quantitative notions of performance in addressing energy efficiency, comfort, wellbeing, affordability, environmental sustainability and ecological awareness. Custom built media/data architectural features, aesthetically codify, translate and transform performance data, from an array of sensors, as visual and sonic experiences to raise awareness of consumption, performance, and behaviour. http://teammtl.ca/index.html